Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Turning your Blog into a Book

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Back at BarCamp, another drizzly morning, perfect for brunch in bed or a bracing geek-fest brunch, which consists this morning of complementary Starbucks coffee, Skittles, pretzel sticks and Eden Garden Salty ‘n Sweet Snack Bars.

First session up is a woman named Claudia Gere, telling us that getting a traditional publisher for your book is harder and harder these days.  We feel a pitch for self-publishing coming up.

We may not last as long today at the conference today, but let’s see what surprises the day will bring……

Santa Norma Blesses Us All

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Norma Moreira with a calabash Nativity scene, from her native Ecuador, among the dozens of creches she has collected from around the world.

This Christmas, Norma Moreira and her husband are sharing their home with 45 wise men.

Moreira, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador in 1996, has been acquiring Nativity scenes for the past two decades. With her collection now standing at 58 (15 of which contain the three wise men), images of a cluttered storefront might come to mind. But when you consider that some figures are not much larger than a fingernail, it’s easy to understand how Moreira is able to comfortably share her Watertown home with all those creches.

from the Boston Globe, Christmas Day 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone! We couldn’t be prouder of our lovely and loving wife who today was profiled in a feature in the Boston Globe.  This story began as a blog posting on Dowbrigade News two years ago. A few weeks ago, Norma suggested I submit it to the Globe. Her collection has grown in the past two years, and they jumped on it like dogs on a meat wagon.

Let the record show that the Dowbrigade considers himself the luckiest man in the world for having found the perfect wife for his problematic personality.

Still Fighting the Last Century’s Wars

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Google seems intent on following the same path to world domination as the previous heavyweight champ – Microsoft – by releasing a “better browser” of their own. Known as Google Chrome, its chief innovation seems to be putting the tabs on top of the address bar. Quite frankly, it will take more than that to wean the Dowbrigade from Firefox 3.1 (OK, it isn’t quite installed yet).

We have been using this browser, in one form or another, since installing Netscape 1.0 over Christmas vacation in 1994. Before that we used Mosaic, and since then we have tried, among others, Opera, iCab, Thunderbird, Camino, Safari, and about a million versions of Internet Explorer. But we keep coming back to Netscape/Firefox.

Our current version is tuned up and tricked out, and does everything but tell us tomorrow’s lottery number. Of course, Chrome doesn’t have to be better than Firefox to be a success, just better than IE7, a ridiculously low benchmark. Undoubtedly it will engage seamlessly with the rest of the Google universe, but we see problems with endowing any human-directed entity with that kind of omnipotence. We already use Google’s search, tabbed homepage, map service, calendar, photo service, email, reminder service and image search. They have most of our email and photos and some of our documents and medical records.  Are they satisfied?  Noooo, they want more.  They want it all.

Power corrupts, etc. and it’s only a matter of time until Google morphs into the latest incarnation of the evil empire. We know that the corporate climate at Google is “different”. The road to hell is paved in good intentions.

Meanwhile, they have published a 38 page comic book touting their Better Browser. Here are a few highlights from Blogoscoped

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* Google Chrome is Google’s open source browser project. As rumored before under the name of “Google Browser”, this will be based on the existing rendering engine Webkit. Furthermore, it will include Google’s Gears project.

* The browser will include a JavaScript Virtual Machine called V8, built from scratch by a team in Denmark, and open-sourced as well so other browsers could include it. One aim of V8 was to speed up JavaScript performance in the browser, as it’s such an important component on the web today. Google also say they’re using a “multi-process design” which they say means “a bit more memory up front” but over time also “less memory bloat.” When web pages or plug-ins do use a lot of memory, you can spot them in Chrome’s task manager, “placing blame where blame belongs.”

* Google Chrome will use special tabs. Instead of traditional tabs like those seen in Firefox, Chrome puts the tab buttons on the upper side of the window, not below the address bar.

* The browser has an address bar with auto-completion features. Called ‘omnibox’, Google says it offers search suggestions, top pages you’ve visited, pages you didn’t visit but which are popular amd more. The omnibox (“omni” is a prefix meaning “all”, as in “omniscient” – “all-knowing”) also lets you enter e.g. “digital camera” if the title of the page you visited was “Canon Digital Camera”. Additionally, the omnibox lets you search a website of which it captured the search box; you need to type the site’s name into the address bar, like “amazon”, and then hit the tab key and enter your search keywords.

* As a default homepage Chrome presents you with a kind of “speed dial” feature, similar to the one of Opera. On that page you will see your most visited webpages as 9 screenshot thumbnails. To the side, you will also see a couple of your recent searches and your recently bookmarked pages, as well as recently closed tabs.

* Chrome has a privacy mode; Google says you can create an “incognito” window “and nothing that occurs in that window is ever logged on your computer.” The latest version of Internet Explorer calls this InPrivate. Google’s use-case for when you might want to use the “incognito” feature is e.g. to keep a surprise gift a secret. As far as Microsoft’s InPrivate mode is concerned, people also speculated it was a “porn mode.”

* Web apps can be launched in their own browser window without address bar and toolbar. Mozilla has a project called Prism that aims to do similar (though doing so may train users into accepting non-URL windows as safe or into ignoring the URL, which could increase the effectiveness of phishing attacks).

* To fight malware and phishing attempts, Chrome is constantly downloading lists of harmful sites. Google also promises that whatever runs in a tab is sandboxed so that it won’t affect your machine and can be safely closed. Plugins the user installed may escape this security model, Google admits.

WIKI transfer

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Look at this

 The mysterious life and alleged crime of Clark RockefellerThe mysterious life and alleged crime of Clark Rockefeller

 

 

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Live from Bar Camp Boston

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The Dowbrigade News is coming to you live this morning from BarCamp Boston, at Marignon High School in Cambridge. This is the third Bar Camp in as many years, and the success of the idea is seen in the increasing attendance, interest and sponsorship at each successive event. So what is Bar Camp?

Billed as the “unconference” it is a sort of on-the-fly mash-up of a technology conference, an almost tribal gathering of geeks, software developers, newtech entrepreneurs, code slingers, mad geniuses and electronic eccentrics who come together to bounce ideas off the walls and each other, demo prototypes and alpha versions of new ideas, discuss issues of interest to the community and socialize in that endearingly verklumft camaraderie of the socially challenged.

After brief introduction to the concept and modality of Bar Camp by Shimon Rura, some caustic comments from organizer Mike Walsh we gave 30 second intros by the crowd, which took awhile as there were well over a hundred geeks by this point, and featured areas of interest like, Drupal, Python, Ruby on Rails, heuristics, cloud computing and making money.

The intros are now over, and there is an amorphous hour during which the conference schedule is supposed to coalesce and congeal from the fecund soup of so many supposedly smart people milling around. There is a large wall in a lobby outside the cafeteria we are using for the plenary where concensus, popular and ad-hoc sessions are magic-markered into a blank conference schedule. This is known as the “schedule wall” and is the official program of the unconference. On a bulletin board opposite index cards are posted with ideas, requests for sessions, “Anybody interested in….?” queries and half-formed proposals waiting to develop into full-fledged session ideas.

Sounds extremely sketchy, no? But it has proven effective and successful at past Bar Camps, and so your trusty correspondent will now sign off to observe the creative process first-hand and inspect the resulting program to see if there is anything we could possibly understand.

More later…..

The Unfolding Narrative of Queen Hillary

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Queen HillaryHillary believers need not fear. The Obama phenomena has reached its high tide mark right on cue, and the froth and spray are starting to ebb. Just as scripted by her consort the Master Planner, the Warrior Princess will emerge, bloodied but unbowed, battle-tested and triumphant, to claim her rightful place on the throne.

At some inevitable point in the next few months, the gallant young knight-errant will step to center stage, deliver a moving and inspirational silioquy, and kneel before his leige to pledge his sword and his loyalty for the battle ahead. The major remaining incognitos, in our mind, are the new Queen’s choice for a second-in-command, and the location of the prestigeous fiefdom from whence the defeated loyal knight will serve the resurgent dynasty.

A few weeks ago we were wondering if the Clintons would be able to finesse the endgame or would need to resort to the self-destruct button on their Obamadroid. We should have had more faith in the Master Planner. Whatever their Ace in the Hole was – and it is certain that the powers controlling the Democratic Party would not have brought this loquations young man so far so fast without a kill switch – we won’t be seeing it anytime soon.

Instead of a scandalous misstep like those which aborted the campaigns of Edmund Muskie, Ted Kennedy or Gary Hart, we will probably see a series of minor miscalculations, insinuations, denied rumors and critical press like that which has emerged in the past few days.

These moves are designed to erode Obamamania just enough to let Hillary play the comeback kid one more time while retaining Obama as a viable asset in future electoral cycles. After all, the party superstructure (aka The League of Super Delegates) has a lot of time and money invested in their boy Obama by now, and it would be a shame to have to blow him up at this stage of the game.

Why would the Democrats want to go through this long, drawn out drama if they could possibly avoid it? The conventional wisdom says that McCain and the Republicans have a major advantage having settled on a candidate four months before their convention while the Democrats are still battling it out. As usual, the conventional wisdom is hogwash.

What do you think the Press is going to cover if John McCain is attending fund raisers and giving the same tired speech over and over again to groups of rich white donors while Hillary and Barack are barnstorming across the country speaking in Baptist Churches and Barrio rec centers and college campuses, chasing every demographic slice of the American Pie and trading punches like the Red Sox and Yankees in a 51-game World Series? Which narrative will capture the public imagination?

Because what politics in America has come down to in the Media Age is a competition between narratives. Which storyline will the public buy into? John McCain has a compelling narrative with the whole tiger cage, Maverick Senator thing, and it sure would feel good, on one level, to have a real American hero as President once again. It’s been a while. How can the Dems come up with a narrative to top that?

During the past two election cycles, the Democrats cynically underestimated the American predilection for smaltzy melodrama and patriotic vitriol, and the Republicans were able to impose the righteous reformed slacker Bush narrative on an insecure and wounded public. This time the Clinton brain trust, Howard Dean and the economic interests behind them are determined not to get robbed again on the crucial stage of media-fueled myth-making.

So they have crafted, for our viewing pleasure, an exquisite, astute and inspirational saga of struggle and triumph, of emancipation and empowerment, of patient perseverance rewarded and past injustices avenged. It’s gonna have action, it’s gonna have tear-jerking dialog, it’s gonna have mondo suspense, and its gonna have a happy ending. For its authors.

If everything goes according to plan, its gonna fill up the front pages of America and the world, and keep the voters enthralled until its dramatic denouement in July, when the Warrior Princess is crowned and the loyal knights line up to pledge to the cause and prepare for the final battle against the forces of evil in November.

Simply brilliant. Like a well-scripted television series, even though we all but certain of the eventual outcome, we can’t wait to watch each episode unfold.

The only questions remaining, in the Dowbrigade’s mind at least, are who Hillary will select as a running mate and what role she has reserved for the soon-to-be tamed Obama. Readers may have surmised that we don’t think much of the chance she’ll select Obama himself; despite the superficial advantages this would produce a deeply unbalanced ticket bound to tick off just about any group on some level.

What Hillary needs is an experienced older white guy from the South with enough Gravitas that a certain segment of the voting public will reason, “Well, if she really fucks up or goes rabid, we can always impeach the bitch and fall back on good old Chumley…” This may be enough to close the deal for the few percentage points worth of wavering liberals necessary to put her over the top.

We’ll deal with these ancillary questions in a future posting.

The Old Man and the “C”

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So this is what American democracy has come down to. A national charade, made for TV, scripted years in advance, to entertain the public across the country and around the world with a professionally produced perversion of the democratic process posing as the gold standard of modern democracy.

In the “Democratic” ring of the circus, the heiress apparent shadow boxes with a sparring partner woven from whole cloth, a sham so transparent that only years of constant exposure to the alternate reality of the immersive medium of modern TV can explain the enthusiasm with which the electorate has suspended its disbelief.

As Bill so accurately foresaw years ago, it has come down to Hill and one guy. Luckily for the Clinton operation, it’s their guy. The rampant, desperate late success of the Obama campaign testifies to the visceral revulsion Hillary inspires in a sizable slice of the human race, a disadvantage she has been plotting to overcome since her undergraduate days.

The current farce in which our heroic heroine is challenged by a handsome but misdirected young knight in shining armor is being passed off as historic drama, and, in the absence of new episodes of “Heroes” the drama-starved public is eating it up. Now we know what all those talented Hollywood writers have been up to during their long, lonely strike.

Although rumbles of a tsunami of Obama’s monumental momentum are gathering in California, we remain confident that Hilliary holds a hidden trump card. She and the ex-Prez wouldn’t have created this political monster if they didn’t have a silver bullet to put it down in the penultimate act. Or at least get it to heel. Watch, the handsome knight will lay down his sword and kneel before the shining Princess, soon to be Queen, and pledge his allegiance. Great theater, coming soon to a screen near you.

Hillary is the ultimate in venal, ambitious, unscrupulous, Machievellian, power-mad politicos, and that is why the Dowbrigade is supporting her in this ill-fated race. The last two girly-men the Demos put up got their lunch money stolen on the way to school, and the country has been paying dearly ever since.

Maybe its time for a manly-girl who knows how to fight dirty and get even.

In the “Republican” ring of the circus it’s come down to a cantankerous war hero and a Mormon werewolf with perfect hair. Milquetoast Milt carries a lot of baggage onto the stage; the polygamous past, the Big Dig, the sit-com family. He seems blithely unawares that he’s about to be fragged by the McCain military machine.

It seems obvious that McCain has been scripted as the victor in this part of the play. After all, the man is a killer who spent five years in a bamboo cage. He’d be favored in a fair fight against Chuck Norris, and since Norris is supporting McCain, you’d be a fool to bet against them.

It’s going to come down to The Old Man and the “C”. In a fair fight, our money in on The Old Man against anybody. Which is why we voted for a Clinton this morning, for the first time ever. BTW, the headline is copyright db.

Kos Cutting Class

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Markos Moulitsas (LAW'99) talks with Maureen O'Rourke, dean of the School of Law, at the conference New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas. Photo by Vernon DoucetteMarkos Moulitsas (LAW’99) talks with Maureen O’Rourke, dean of the School of Law, at the conference New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas. Photo by Vernon Doucette

[From an interesting interview with Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos published today in the BU newspaper web site]

Do you think the Republicans will eventually pick up on the Internet as a fundraising and campaigning tool?

They never really needed it before. They’ve been very good at getting small donations in the past via direct mail. Now direct mail has become obsolete. The people who fill out a check are old and dying off, and my generation — well, I can’t imagine being caught dead writing a check.

Photo of the Day

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Journalist Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a soldier.

It doesn’t get much more real, or more deadly, than this. Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai lies in the street, mortally wounded, trying desperately to catch a final shot as his life flows out of his busted body and a young soldier sprints over his prone form.

To the Dowbrigade, a pajama pundit to the core, a picture like this serves as a reminder that, all citizen journalism and alternative media aside, there is a categorical difference between a blogger or a commentator and a practicing professional journalist. We in the ‘sphere would do well to remember that without brave and crazy men and women like Kenji putting their lives on the line every single day, we pundits would have nothing to pontificate on from the comfort and safety of our digital cocoons.

Comic of the Day

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This has become a regular point of contention between the Dowbrigade and his main feline spiritual advisor, Chiqui. Rather than walk on our face (always a risky proposition) Chiqui sits calmly and prudently a few inches to one side and gently paws somewhere in the nose-mouth region. What he means is A) fix my breakfast (he manages to survive on a protean diet of Sensitive Systems hi-tech dry food and boiled chicken breast B) scratch me, and C) don’t you have to be somewhere so I can have the bed to myself the rest of the day?

We have become used to this routine,and occasionally are able to perform our duties in a sufficiently somnambulistic manner to return to dreamland for a few precious minutes afterward. However, lately we have noticed a perturbing precision in Chiqui’s wakeup calls which have us wondering about collusion and outside agendas. Turns out Chiqui has been awakening me at precisely sunrise.

For example, today, according to the Boston Globe, the sun rose at precisely 6:21. Sure enough, at Chiqui’s first touch I looked at the clock, and it read 6:21. Yesterday, it was exactly 6:17, and the day before 6:14. Obviously, this is good news going into the Fall, as eventually we will be allowed to sleep past 7. But it is precisely the precision which has us wondering.

Has Chiqui learned to read the clock, and the Globe? Does he have some feline, or human, co-conspirator giving him cues? Does he have an internal clock even more precise than his master’s (we have never owned an alarm clock, and have never missed a plane)?

We are thinking of installing “Kitty Cams” to find out what he really does all day while we are at work…..

Pre Post Practice

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firstlondWandering about Old Blighty, the Dowbrigade has escaped to a tranquil English Garden belong to his new friend Norm, of DynEd fame, while recovering from the transatlantic flight and preparing for the legal decathalon which begins Monday.

It’s been 36 years since the last time we were kicked out of merry olde England, but they seem to be ready to let bygones be bygones and we were admitted without preconditions. At first, it hardly seemed like we were in a foreign country; all the signs were in English, and the architecture of the airport and the highway presented no novelties. Even the fact that everyone was driving on the wrong side of the street seemed a mere glitch in our dislexic wrold-view.

But when we got to Norm’s place, in a cheery rural town in the English countryside called Chearsley, suddenly it seemed we had been dropped into a Hobbit prequel. Shady, winding paths like green tunnels through the vines and bushes, stone cottages with thatched doors, houses with names like “Hobbleston” and “Turnip Close”, a 13th century church with lapidary stones worn to illegibility, a pub called the Bell, flowers, berries, nuts, ferns, vines and thorn bushes everywhere, dogs, cats and burros peeking from behind stone walls and banks of bushes, everything altogether foreign once one looks closely.

Much dizzying discussion of teaching, programming, interface design, information management and the weather, meeting people and drinking caffinated beverages has ensued. More acclimation exercises planned for this evening. By tomorrow weshould be fully recovered and ready to begin exploring.

No thought yet to the fact that we have to being teaching the entire history and structure of the US Legal System, case by case, begining Monday 9am, to 30 whip-smart Euro-lawyers. Time enough to worry about that on Sunday…..

Stay tuned.

Doc Exposed as Blogger, Pays Off Plaintiff

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As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn’t know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff’s case and the plaintiff’s lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

Shortly before the end of his second day on the witness stand, while focusing on Lindeman’s views of a pediatric textbook, Mulvey asked him whether he had a medical blog, she recalled. He said he did. Then she asked him if he was Flea. He said he was.

The exchange may have been lost on jurors, but Meyer said Mulvey had telegraphed that she was ready to share Lindeman’s blog — containing his unvarnished views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process — with the jury.

The next day, the case was settled.

from the Boston Globe

Is there any such thing as anonymous blogging anymore? Is a blogger with a track record as extensive and injudicious as that of the Dowbrigade permanently disqualified from seeking legitimate employment, a fair shake in the judicial system, public office or jury duty?

Budding bloggers beware – it may be too late for the Dowbrigade, but you still have time to save yourselves……